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Pasta, as an Italian staple, likely developed in the 12th century. Soon after, locals in the Naples region developed a way to mass-produce dried pasta, which allowed for long-term storage that helped to enable extended sea voyages. Pasta has changed little over the last 800 years. In Italy, it was traditionally the food of peasants, which meant just about everyone. Before the introduction of tomatoes from the New World, pasta was served with olive oil, garlic and local vegetables. It is a regular component of the Mediterranean diet.

What makes pasta healthy is the fact that it has a low glycemic index (GI) — a modern concept of how fast glucose, a sugar from carbohydrates, is absorbed into the bloodstream. The GI runs from zero to 100 and foods with a higher index number tend to spike the blood with sugar. Pasta’s low glycemic index is around 25 to 45, depending on the type. That’s in the range of many fruits and (non-potato) vegetables.

There are several reasons for pasta’s low GI rank. Semolina flour comprises large, crystal-like yellow particles. Its naturally strong gluten content prevents starch from leaching out quickly and, this in turn, leads to slower digestion, slower release of sugar into the blood and a greater feeling of satiation. Also, the extrusion process — the process in which the unleavened semolina dough is pushed through a die to give pasta its shape — creates “a very compact structure, which makes the carb release its energy slowly.

Whole-grain semolina pasta, a recent trend, does not necessarily have a lower GI. Rather, the whole grain adds micronutrients lost in the milling process, which can be important to good health. Pasta should be cooked al dente or slightly firm. Anything longer, can raise the GI index and pasta becomes unhealthy when it is overly processed or when it is topped with fatty ingredients. So when you’re deciding what to make for dinner and checking off prerequisites in your head – is it fast? is it healthy? will the kids eat it? – pasta is a surprisingly good choice, especially when paired with healthy ingredients.

pastatonight1

Pasta with Garlicky Roasted Broccoli

4- 6  servings

Ingredients

  • 6 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 ounces whole-wheat rotini or penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup  grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Combine broccoli, garlic, walnuts, salt and pepper in a medium-size bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and stir until coated.

Place broccoli mixture on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes, stirring twice.

Cook pasta following package directions for al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and return to the pot.

Add broccoli mixture to the pasta pot and stir in broth, butter and Parmesan cheese.

pastatonight2

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Sausage and Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound mild or hot Italian turkey, chicken or lean pork sausage
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 1 red and 1 green bell pepper, cut into slices
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried italian seasoning
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  • 1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 2 tablespoons dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3/4 pound whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Directions

In a large frying pan, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning, until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Remove. When the sausage is cool enough to handle, cut it into 1/2-inch slices.

Add the onion, peppers and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes longer. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the Italian seasoning, tomatoes, broth, vermouth, the sliced sausage, the parsley and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the spaghetti until al dente, about 11-12 minutes. Drain and toss with the sausage-and-pepper mixture and the Parmesan. Serve with additional Parmesan.

pastatonight3

Linguine with Shellfish and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound linguine
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pounds sea scallops
  • 1 pound shrimp
  • 1/2 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (8 ounce) bottle clam juice
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes

Directions

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the linguine until al dente, about 11-12 minutes. Drain the pasta.

In a large skillet heat the olive oil and add the garlic and saute until tender.

Add the scallops and shrimp. Cook until shrimp turn pink, about 4 minutes. Add clam juice and pepper flakes. Cook for 3 minutes more.

To the cooked pasta add the sun-dried tomatoes, parsley and lemon zest; toss. Pour seafood mixture over the linguini and serve immediately.

Spaghettini with Mushrooms, Garlic, and Oil 

Spaghettini with Mushrooms, Garlic and Oil

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
  • 1 pound button or portabella or wild mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium frying pan, heat the olive oil over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and the red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the garlic softens, about 1 minute.

Add the sliced mushrooms and the salt and cook until the mushrooms exude liquid, the liquid evaporates, and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the spaghettini until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain and toss with the mushroom mixture, the parsley and the pepper.

Linguine Carbonara

Linguine Carbonara

4 servings

  • Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 pound sliced bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound linguine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions

In a small frying pan, heat the oil and butter over moderate heat. Add the bacon and cook until brown but not crisp, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, wine and pepper. Simmer until the wine is reduced slightly, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cheese and salt.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the linguine until al dente, about 11-12 minutes. Drain the pasta, add it to the egg and cheese mixture and toss quickly. Pour the bacon mixture over the linguine. Add the parsley and toss just until mixed. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan.

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